An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Longboat’s canal maintenance program still years from reality

Early 2025 is likely the earliest a canal dredging program will be implemented.

Implementation of a canal navigation maintenance program in Longboat Key is still a couple of years from reality.

The subject first arrived in front of commissioners in February 2020. At that time, town staff presented a review of canal projects and the town’s history of attempts to develop a canal dredging program.

In March 2021, staff updated commissioners further and included how they believed the town’s 81 canals could be categorized. The canals are of high importance to the town as they are part of its amenities and ambiance that visitors and residents adore.

Implementing an ongoing dredging program would alleviate the need for major dredging projects every few years. The last major dredge the town completed was in 2003 and included about 30 canals.

Red tide is back in Manatee and Sarasota counties

But it's diminishing in most of the Pinellas beaches.

Red tide is almost gone from the Pinellas beaches, but is back in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

State environmental officials said Wednesday that low amounts of red tide were found in Pinellas only at Belleair Beach, Shell Key and Fort DeSoto.

But problems are persisting south of the bay. Medium amounts of the toxin were found this week at Anna Maria Island and the Longboat Key boat ramp in Manatee County. In Sarasota, low amounts were found at Lido Beach and New Pass Dock on Sarasota Bay.

Low amounts are also being reported on the south fishing pier of the Sunshine Skyway.

Fish kills and respiratory irritation were reported this week in all three counties.

Forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides for Pinellas County to northern Monroe County predict variable movement of surface waters and net southeastern transport of subsurface waters in most areas over the next 3½ days.

red tide map

Piney Point injection well ready

Manatee County logo

MANATEE COUNTY – Just 24 months after a State of Emergency was declared, due to the leakage of waters contained in Piney Point phosphogypsum stacks, Manatee County Utilities crews are poised to begin safe and secure disposal of those waters through a fully permitted injection well.

The well—safely drilled to a depth of 3,300 feet below land surface (bls)—was completed by Ft. Myers-based Youngquist Brothers, Inc., working with consultants ASRus of Tampa and Manatee County Utilities staff. By collaboratively working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), crews were able to expedite the well work—which was completed late last year. It is anticipated that the disposal will begin next week.

“The cooperation and collaboration with the DEP have been key in getting this project fast-tracked,” said Manatee County Utilities Director Evan Pilachowski. “We are so pleased that we are to this point in the process already.”

The well will be used to safely dispose of Piney Point's process water into a confined saltwater aquifer over a half mile below the surface. That process water—which will be drained from the reservoirs atop nearby phosphogypsum stacks—will be pre-treated before injection. Work on the pre-treatment facility has been underway since earlier this year.

“We are excited to write the final chapter of this Piney Point story,” said Manatee County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge. “The teamwork involved in this important project—from the receiver to the DEP, to the consultants and our hard-working staff—have brought this to fruition.”

Army Corps seeks public input for proposed dredging of Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

USACE logo

JACKSONVILLE – USACE Jacksonville District will conduct a virtual public National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) scoping presentation March 29, 2023, to solicit public comments for consideration in its planned maintenance dredging of sections of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW). 

The envisioned maintenance dredging will address seven discrete sections (cuts) of the 160-mile-long waterway, which extends from the mouth of the Anclote River in the north to the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River in the south.

Construction of the federal navigation channel was authorized in 1945 and completed in 1967. The NEPA document is a re-scoping of a draft NEPA written and released for public comment in 2018. That document was not finalized at the time due of loss of funding. USACE is consolidating the sections (cuts) under consideration so as not to analyze each one separately for future action.

USACE will host two publicly accessible online sessions, one from 10 a.m. to noon, and the second from 6-8 p.m. Each session will comprise two presentations beginning at the top of the hour. To participate, please pre-register at to receive a link to join the event.

Public comments may be submitted through April 21 via email to

They mail also be submitted by U.S. Postal Service mail to the address below:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District
ATTN: Kathryn Lebow
701 San Marco Blvd
Jacksonville, FL 32207

Comments must be received by close of business April 21, 2023, for consideration. A copy of the NEPA scoping presentation will be posted for review to the project webpage:

For more information about Corps projects, please visit

Missed the recent “Water Conservation in Sarasota” workshop? Watch it on YouTube

LBK logo

You can now view the Water Conservation Workshop that took place at Town Hall on March 28, 2023. We recorded the workshop and it is available on YouTube by clicking the following link: Water Conservation in Sarasota - YouTube

Learn about where our potable water comes from, the future of Florida's supply, and what steps we, as individuals, can take to conserve it. The presentation covers where people use the most water in and outside of the home, leak detection tips, water-efficient appliances and other devices, and some simple ways to reduce our use at home by changing our habits. If everyone in our area reduced their water use by 10%, we’d save over 44 million gallons of water per day!

Conservation Foundation of Gulf Coast invites public to join Myakka restoration initiative

The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast is seeking volunteers to contribute to an ongoing effort to support, restore, and enhance the Myakka wetlands region.

The not-for-profit land trust recently embarked on a river restoration project at their 432-acre Myakka Headwaters Preserve – where seven creeks converge to form the Myakka River. More than 15,400 plants of 27 species were planted, including 2,000 coreopsis, the Florida loosestrife, nearly 1,000 wetland trees from 10 species, and 9,000 plugs of a wetland grass called maidencane.

The restoration effort is seeking volunteers on April 21 from 9-11:30 a.m. Volunteers will primarily be planting native trees and wildflowers and should be capable of working outdoors on uneven terrain for the duration of the visit. The most challenging aspect will likely be the uneven terrain and hot/cold weather conditions.

Seagrass loss threatens environment on Florida Gulf Coast

New surveys of seagrass on Florida’s Gulf Coast show the vital marine plant is continuing to lose ground at a rapid pace in Tampa and Sarasota Bay.

Since 2016, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has documented losses of almost 30% of Tampa Bay’s seagrass and around 26% in Sarasota Bay.

The decline comes after local waters were slammed with pollution from the Piney Point industrial site and severe red tides over the past several years.

But the seagrass losses also have increased despite many areas meeting state water quality targets, which environmentalists say need changing.

Scientists say action must be taken to prevent Tampa and Sarasota’s seagrass ecosystem from collapsing like the one in the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast, where manatee deaths are highest.

Here’s what to know about red tide in Pinellas County this week

“It looks like we’re getting a bit of reprieve for the moment,” said Maya Burke, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program’s assistant director. “But we know these blooms tend to be patchy and can change.”

The worst of the red tide has diminished over the past few days. But it’s not gone yet.

The dead and rotting fish that dotted the shores of St. Pete Beach at the start of the month have declined in recent days, a signal that toxic red tide has loosened its fiery grip on the Pinellas County coast.

Cleanup crews cleared roughly 1,000 pounds of dead fish from the shores of St. Pete Beach in early March, filling at least two 40-pound bags of dead fish per day.

But last week crews picked up no more than 40 fish total, according to Mandy Edmunds, the parks supervisor with the city of St. Pete Beach.

“It’s looking much better right now,” Edmunds said Monday.

Pinellas County has enjoyed a streak of improved red tide conditions in recent days as the thickest toxic algae patches have started to lose their steam around the Tampa Bay area. The recent cold fronts may have helped break up the worst of it.

New Manatee River bridge span at Fort Hamer is Manatee County’s top priority for federal funds

Commissioners prioritize infrastructure, trail system for federal funds

As Manatee County commissioners set their federal funding priorities during a March 8 special meeting and workshop, their focus was infrastructure and bringing the county’s trail system to fruition.

Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said that while prioritization of the projects would not normally have been requested of the commission until April, a message from the appropriations chair, Texas Rep. Kay Granger, said such project reports would be due March 13.

The commission created a list of its top three projects which included — in order of highest to lowest priority — building an additional bridge at Fort Hamer, flood mitigation in the Pearce Drain watershed and building the county’s trail system, which the commission split into two distinct segments for which they would seek funding.

Hunsicker said commissioners’ priorities will be relayed to the Appropriations Committee by Rep. Vern Buchanan. He said federal funding for each of the projects is capped at $3 million, with a limit of 15 projects for the county.

Hunsicker also said Congress has reintroduced “for lack of a better term” earmarks for some agencies, with fairly strict limitations on what projects would be eligible.

FWC, DEP visit SW Florida to survey red tide conditions, ensure local needs are being met

On March 14, 2023, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Acting Executive Director Dr. Thomas Eason and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Shawn Hamilton participated in a flyover to observe current red tide conditions firsthand and meet with local stakeholders.

The state is taking an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to respond to the red tide impacting Florida’s west coast. The FWC, DEP and Florida Department of Health are working together to ensure a coordinated state response and are committed to coordinating with local governments to provide resources to assist in cleanup efforts and will continue to monitor the red tide bloom to ensure that all local needs are being met.

The FWC is closely monitoring a red tide bloom across Southwest Florida, including Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Red tide (Karenia brevis) is a naturally occurring microscopic algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840s and occurs nearly every year. 

Dead fish on the beach? Longboat Key leans on nature for cleanup.

The town of Longboat Key cleans up fish kills from red tide only after four tidal cycles fail to clear them.

As anyone on the Key knows, red tide is still here with uncertainty on when it will pack its bags for a while.

Karenia brevis is the naturally occurring organism that can lead to harmful algal blooms that cause red tide.

Because it is a naturally occurring, mostly ever-present organism, there is not much local officials can do to solve the issue or lessen its effects.

Town commissioners discussed what responsibilities they have when it comes to monitoring red tide, cleaning up dead fish and getting out information to concerned residents and visitors at their March 6 regular meeting.

“It’s affecting everybody I know that stays outside right now,” Commissioner Mike Haycock said. “I have gotten a number of complaints about fish kills and the smell from fish kills.”

Town Manager Howard Tipton said the amount of dead fish on the beaches and in the canals had not met the threshold for a cleanup using town resources.

However, on March 8, town staff sent an email notifying people of Manatee County’s plan to clean up the beaches for the entire 10-mile stretch of the island. The county raked the beach to help the town remove some of the dead sea life.

University of Central Florida uses 6-foot ‘test tubes’ to study red tide

This study is the first successful test of any red tide mitigation technology in open water using large water column containers called limnocorrals.

A potential treatment for Florida’s devastating red tides took another step toward widespread deployment after successful testing in Sarasota Bay.

Additional detailed data analysis is required to confirm results, but UCF Assistant Professor of Biology Kristy Lewis is encouraged by the large-scale test of a red tide mitigation technology called clay flocculation that was performed in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory.

This study is the first successful test of any red tide mitigation technology in open water using large water column containers called limnocorrals. These tubes — about six feet in diameter — extend from the waters’ surface to the ocean floor, allowing scientists to test real ocean conditions within a controlled setting. Think of it like a giant test tube.

Experts and technicians from Mote Marine Laboratory and funding from Florida Sea Grant provided the necessary resources to set eight limnocorrals into Sarasota Bay. Four columns were treated with a fine spray of the clay solution, while the other four served as a control.

Clay flocculation works by the clay attaching to the Karenia brevis algae, which is responsible for Florida red tide, and sinking them to the ocean floor. Lewis has spent the last three years carefully testing the impact of introducing this non-native mineral into the ocean ecosystem. She’s not only looking for changes in the water’s nutrients and quality, but also evaluating how the clay impacts the health of invertebrates like blue crabs, sea urchins and clams.

“We want to make sure the cure is not worse than the disease,” she says.

Initial plans for the large-scale test were simply to measure the impact of the clay on the ecosystem, but the unexpected appearance of an actual red tide event heightened the realism of the experiment. Initial results suggest the clay performed as expected, but there’s still a question of whether the algae’s toxins remain dormant or active on the ocean floor. Water samples collected during the experiment should provide an answer.

EPA to limit toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed the first federal limits on harmful “forever chemicals” in drinking water, a long-awaited protection the agency said will save thousands of lives and prevent serious illnesses, including cancer.

The plan would limit toxic PFAS chemicals to the lowest level that tests can detect. PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated substances, are a group of compounds that are widespread, dangerous and expensive to remove from water. They don’t degrade in the environment and are linked to a broad range of health issues, including low birthweight and kidney cancer.

“The science is clear that long-term exposure to PFAS is linked to significant health risks,” Radhika Fox, assistant EPA administrator for water, said in an interview.

Fox called the federal proposal a “transformational change” for improving the safety of drinking water in the United States. The agency estimates the rule could reduce PFAS exposure for nearly 100 million Americans, decreasing rates of cancer, heart attacks and birth complications.

Red tide update from the Town of Longboat Key

LBK logo

March 8, 2023

Manatee County and Longboat Key staff will be collecting fish from Longboat Key’s entire 10-mile stretch of beach on Thursday and Friday, March 9 & 10. We appreciate the collaboration and support from Manatee County in the fish kill cleanup efforts.

Red tide persists from Naples to the Tampa Bay area. Respiratory irritation experienced is not related to the fish kill itself, but the result of the surf and wave action on the beach creating aerosolized algae toxins which become airborne and carried by the wind. Winds from the North and East tend to push those aerosolized toxins offshore thus alleviating some of the respiratory issues related to red tide. Offshore winds from the South and West tend to push it across the island

The most current information on red tide can be found by visiting Florida Fish & Wildlife website at

Mote Marine & Research Laboratory reports current Beach Conditions on their website at

NCCOS, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science is a great resource as well

The Town’s website also has links to the Department of Health and to other valuable resources

Seaweed blob visible from space takes aim at Florida Gulf coast

TAMPA — Marine scientists are tracking a 5,000-mile-wide seaweed bloom that is so large, it can be seen from space – and it’s heading towards Florida’s Gulf coast.

These sargassum blooms are nothing new, but scientists say this one could be the largest in history.

The thick mat of algae drifts between the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Gulf of Mexico, providing habitat for marine life and absorbing carbon dioxide, but it can also wreak havoc when when it gets closer to shore. It blocks light from reaching coral and negatively impacts air and water quality as it decomposes.

Florida’s Gulf coast is already grappling with an algae bloom amid the busy spring break tourism season. Red tide has caused dead fish to wash ashore in droves, while the risk of respiratory irritation for humans has cancelled events and driven beachgoers away.

With a blanket of sargassum approaching, spanning twice the width of the continental U.S., scientists warn that Florida beaches could soon be inundated with seaweed.

Reef installation to fight algae and red tide

On Wednesday afternoon, a new tool was put in the Gulf of Mexico to monitor the water and support Red Tide research, human health, and the ecosystem.

Ten miles offshore and 30 feet underwater, giant cement blocks will help scientists better understand what’s happening in the water.

“So the importance of Kimberley’s reef is it’s an underwater platform. It’s in a fixed location. We can put instrumentation out there. We can study animals. We can study algae and plant life all at the same spot. And we can study it over time,” professor in The Water School at FGCU, Mike Parsons, said.

Eighteen culverts weighing more than 19,000 pounds each provide fascinating research opportunities and habitats for marine life.

“And the fish are gonna be like, hey, look, here’s a new home. This is the new IT neighborhood,” Parsons said.

And the team can better understand how those fish, crabs, and other creatures respond to change.

“We can monitor for red tide and the impacts of red tide,” Parsons said. “How do fish populations react to red tie? Do they move away? Do they, unfortunately, die? When do they come back?”

And those are big questions while Southwest Florida deals with a Red Tide outbreak and dead fish scattered in the waters off Bonita Beach. Sensors and instruments on the buoys monitor oceanographic conditions on the Gulf and reef.

Florida’s love-hate relationship with phosphorus

The state has mined and abused the Devil’s Element for decades, and now it is increasingly fouling precious coastal waters

In the summer of 2018, in Stuart, a small beach community on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, some hundred panicked homeowners showed up at City Hall in the middle of the business day to demand something be done about the green goo plaguing their coastal waters. It was a sweltering July day, the kind towns like Stuart are built for, but signs on the boardwalk outside City Hall warned visitors:

As people at the meeting introduced themselves and stated their affiliations, it became clear this was not a typical gathering of environmentalists. They weren’t strategizing about how to protect some beleaguered species and the far?away lands or waters upon which it depends. These people, who represented businesses as well as homeowners’ associations and fishing and yachting clubs, spoke as though they were the threatened species.

“I need help,” said Will Embrey, a scraggly commercial fisherman whose business had collapsed right along with the region’s schools of mackerel not long after the green slime arrived. “There are a lot of people like me that need help.” The 45-?year-?old was suffering chronic stomach pain that was initially diagnosed as diverticulitis, and then ulcerative colitis, and then Crohn’s disease. Eventually doctors had given up trying to figure out what made Embrey so sick.

Embrey didn’t need to spend tens of thousands more dollars on more specialists, CT scans and lab tests to figure out the source of his illness. He knew it was the poisoned water, and he wasn’t alone.

International treaty to protect world’s oceans will help SWFL

A new international treaty paves the way toward establishing large marine protected areas and setting global standards for environmental impacts on our oceans.

The treaty would also regulate countries and companies that commercialize marine resources for pharmaceuticals or cosmetics and make research conducted in international waters more inclusive. Southwest Florida’s waterways, for instance, are plagued by chemical and plastic pollution, overfishing and deep-sea mining. When it comes to international waters, there’s practically no oversight.

“Internationally, we do not have a single treaty that protects the high seas,” said Jennifer Jones, director of the Center for Environment and Society at Florida Gulf Coast University. “And when we talk about high seas, we mean those that are beyond the coastlines and territorial boundaries of countries.”

Jones likens these places to the Wild West, the last true aquatic wilderness.

? “You think about the high seas… it’s two-thirds of our ocean—only one tiny percent of that is protected,” Jones said. “And the high seas, they provide food, they provide oxygen, they provide climate regulation.”

The new treaty aims to protect 30% of our ocean resources by 2030. Think of the high seas as the world’s common space; we all share it. The better the health of the water and sea life, the better the health of the environment within our coastlines.

Florida impacts kick federal beach renourishment policy back to panel

'A beach that’s covered by homes and hotels, and retreat is simply not possible.'

A document setting out federal fishery managers’ opposition to beach renourishment and, should it occur, best management practices is headed back to an advisory panel after concerns about how it would affect Florida.

The policy document begins, “In general, frequent and widespread beach renourishment projects (dredge-and-fill) occurring in the United States southeast together may cause measurable impacts to (essential fish habitat) under the jurisdiction of the (South Atlantic Fishery Management Council).

“Coastal communities are strongly encouraged to evaluate the full range of alternatives, including retreat, to these types of projects when addressing erosion and sea level rise.”

The Council governs federal saltwater fisheries from the North Carolina Outer Banks to the Florida Keys. Members of the SAFMC Habitat Protection and Ecosystem-Based Management Advisory Panel (AP) worked on the document last year. They will get another shot at it after the decisions this week.

The latest language notably differs from the stronger words in a previous draft.

Was Florida red tide made worse by Hurricane Ian? Here’s what we know

Red tide researchers agree: The toxic algae would still be flaring up — with or without the powerful Category 4 storm.

Hurricane Ian slammed the state less than three weeks before red tide appeared, leading many to link the storm with the toxic algae’s return. But what role, if any, did Ian play in the arrival of this latest red tide? We asked experts at three Florida universities, plus two leading state and federal scientists, and their answers boiled down to these main points:

Red tide would still be flaring up, with or without the hurricane; it’s still possible the storm brought red tide closer to shore; the present red tide today is likely no longer feeding on pollution dumped by Ian months ago, and Ian proved scientists still have much to learn about the relationship between storms and toxic algal blooms.

Red tide is getting worse along the Gulf beaches

Southerly winds are pushing the red tide blooms northward into Pinellas County.

State environmental officials on Wednesday said high levels of red tide were reported off the coast of Sarasota County and in Roberts Bay, near Venice. And medium levels continue to affect Pinellas beaches from Redington Beach to Fort DeSoto.

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science issued an advisory this week, cautioning that beachgoers may experience respiratory irritation while visiting beaches in Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas counties.

Reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received from all three counties.

Southerly winds are being blamed for pushing the toxin north from Charlotte and Lee counties, where red tide first emerged in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

It has pushed it as far north as the Panhandle. Red tide was observed at background concentrations in one sample collected from Okaloosa County.

Forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides for Pinellas County south predict northern movement of surface waters and northwestern/western movement of subsurface waters in most areas over the next 3½ days.